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PURCHASING A LAPTOP COMPUTER

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                         PURCHASING A LAPTOP COMPUTER
       
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       There is an allure to purchasing a laptop computer. They are 
       small, sleek and highly productive. What features should you 
       consider when purchasing a laptop? For those who need quick 
       highlights first we'll present a brief overview for the cautious 
       laptop buyer. Later in this tutorial we'll shift gears for a 
       broader "beginners" overview. 

       Before jumping into our tutorial, a reading recommendation. 
       Visit your local library and locate a back issue of the August 
       1992 edition of PC Magazine. That issue covered a variety of 
       reviews concerning specific laptop machines and also contained 
       some surprising suggestions for productive laptop use. While on 
       the topic of pertinent reading, check for other useful titles in 
       the reading list section elsewhere within this tutorial. 

       Next, general suggestions for laptop buyers...
       
       1) The keyboard is the most important interactive part 
       of any laptop. Is it awkward? Could you use it for longer than 
       15 minutes? An hour? A complete morning at work? Note the 
       location of frequently used keys like the backslash \, the F1 
       function help key, the cursor control keys. Some oddball laptops 
       require you to use a shift-funtion key combination for cursor 
       keys. Not terribly comfortable. Othertimes the cursor position 
       keys are oddly laid out in a non standard pattern which is 
       difficult to use and memorize. One of the classic keyboard 
       layouts is the Toshiba 286 T1200XE. Glance at the layout on this 
       machine and compare it to your target laptop. 

       2) The screen. Next to the keyboard this is the greatest delight 
       - or pain - when it comes to using a laptop computer. Can you 
       use it for longer than an hour? Screens can be either backlit or 
       edgelit. Each has advantages. Try both and see which you like. A 
       few clever laptops have screen reversing software built in which 
       can change the screen from black lettering on a light field to 
       light lettering on a dark field. Helpful for some folks. Ask if 
       your target machine has it. Find out if you like it. Is the 
       output VGA (display and run most software) or lowly CGA (run 
       and display fewer packages?) Is there a port on the back so you 
       can plug in your big monitor to the back of the laptop when you 
       are home or at the office? Do you need to buy an adapter for 
       this? On an airplane tray can the screen be tilted so that the 
       seat in front does not bump into the screen edge? 

       3) Weight. Fully outfitted with adapters, disks and batteries, 
       what is the real "workday" weight of the laptop? Load the 
       machine and accessories into a carrying case and heft it for a 
       while. Brochures proclaim extremely light weight figures - in 
       real life you will carry the computer and accessories.

       4) Price. Determine the REAL price. You will need an AC 
       adapater, carrying case and probably spare battery as a minimum. 
       You will need DOS and some software. Beyond that, most people 
       need a few manufacturer specific cables and sometimes a modem. 
       Add it ALL up. 

       5) Battery life is a touchy subject - ultimately the attraction
       of laptops is the opportunity to get work done on the road. 
       Battery life of an hour or so isn't much real work, when you 
       think about it. Two to four hours on a fully charged battery is 
       a working range today. Ask if the laptop has special battery 
       saving features such as sleep mode, pause and resume, user 
       selectable delays for drive and screen refresh use, powerdown 
       mode, capability to change batteries without shutting down the 
       machine and loosing data. Nice features. Is it easy and FAST to 
       change batteries or a real chore? Look at the clasps and snaps 
       as you open and close the battery compartment. 

       6) Modems. Someday you will need one. Does the laptop have a 
       standard serial modem slot to which any low priced modem can 
       be attached or a proprietary manufacturer specific slot to which 
       ONLY that manufacturer's (expensive) modem will attach? For a 
       few extra dollars consider a modem with combined internal fax 
       send and receive capability which is a godsend for travellers. 
       Much cheaper in the long run than paying your hotel $6 per page 
       to transmit and receive faxes. 

       7) How much memory can you add to the laptop? For light word 
       processing and spreadsheet work 640K may be all you need. But 
       serious software use, Windows use or high end graphics may 
       require 2 or more Megabytes of memory. How much can you install 
       into the machine? How much will it cost? Can you install the 
       additional memory or must the factory?

       8) Drives. A standard 3.5 inch floppy drive is almost essential 
       today. A hard drive, too, if you can afford it. If the laptop 
       has no floppy, you might need to purchase special software and 
       cables to transfer files between your laptop and desktop 
       computer. One more expense. Back to the hard drive for a moment: 
       if you work with large mailing lists, huge databases of clients 
       or unusually large spreadsheets you MUST have a hard drive with 
       larger than average capacity. Between 40MB to 100MB would be a 
       wise investment for hard drive intensive storage applications.

       9) Details. Beyond a serial port (for the modem or mouse) does 
       it have a parallel port for a printer? How about capability for 
       an external keyboard? Slot for math coprocessor? Null modem 
       cable for transferring data between other computers.
       
       10) Form follows function. If you plan to use the laptop mostly 
       as your PRIMARY machine at home and work, focus on maximum power 
       and expandable features. If you are a power user of Windows and 
       graphics software you will need VGA display, at least 2MD of ram 
       and at least a 386SX processor. However, if your primary work is 
       spent on the road in planes and trains, pay attention to long 
       battery life and quickly interchangeable battery packs. 

       11) Consider the new breed of tiny portable printers which work 
       well with laptops. Included are the Diconix 150 Plus which 
       weighs in at 3 pounds, Canon BJ-10 Bubblejet, Citizen PN48 and
       Star Micronics StarJet SJ-48. All printers will need spare ink 
       cartridges, printer cable, paper, AC power supply and spare 
       batteries.

       A brief glance at portable computer configurations....

       Laptops are for the most part single-piece computer systems 
       weighing in at between 7 to 15 pounds. In most cases the viewing 
       screen opens in a characteristic "clamshell" manner. All are IBM 
       compatible and most will functions from AC or battery power. 
       Most offer some expanability in memory and some, but not all 
       will even accept an expansion board. The latest designs can 
       mater to a "docking module" which adds powerful desktop features 
       when the units are used in a stationary office setting. Prices 
       range from about $700 to well over $5,000 for advanced models.
       Examples: the Toshiba T4400SX, Librex M386SL, Bondwell B-310SX, 
       Dell 320LT.

       Notebooks weigh in at 4 to 7 pounds and usually feature both AC 
       and battery power. Both hard drive and floppy drive models are 
       available. Prices range from $700 to about $2,000. By far 
       notebooks are the most popular category in the consumer 
       marketplace and for most users have the best balance of weight, 
       cost and features. Examples: Epson NB3, Dell NX-20, Tandy 1800 
       HD, Sharp 6220, Tandy 110 HD, NEC 286F UltraLite, Compaq LTE286, 
       Toshiba T1200XE. 

       Palmtops. The smallest of the small. Weighing in at a pound or 
       less these machines features minaturized keyboards, vestpocket 
       size, lack of hard or floppy drives and varying amounts of true 
       IBM compatability. Features are sacrificed in the quest for 
       miniaturization. Some, such as the Hewlett-Packard 95LX contain 
       built in software such as the standard Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheet.
       At this writing, only the diminuitive Poqet palmtop is equipped 
       to run most IBM compatable software. Tiny credit card sized 
       memory modules are available for some models. Prices range from 
       aobut $400 to over $2,000.

       Next, a broader tutorial about buying a computer for the first 
       time. A refresher course for the advanced. An eye opener for the 
       beginner. Some topic areas also address concerns about larger 
       desktop computers as well as smaller laptops - a broad base of 
       information is usually useful so references to desktop 
       computers has been included.
       
       Buying a new or used computer is always THE traumatic event. It 
       seems to be easier if you merely NEED one for a definite office 
       or productivity goal such as financial analysis or compiling a 
       mailing list of customers. In that case, you can be logical and 
       evaluate among several machines and take your time. If, however 
       you WANT one because it sounds interesting and you feel a little 
       lost when everyone in the neighborhood is discussing CPU WAIT 
       STATES, you have some serious research ahead!  

       From a use standpoint, start at the beginning: What do you want 
       to do with the computer? What software applications will perform 
       these tasks? After determining answers to those two questions, 
       purchase as much computing power as you can afford which allows 
       you to use all current software of interest as well as retaining 
       the possibility of upgrading the machine later - more memory or a 
       better video display, for example. 
       
       Simple applications like word processing, accounting and 
       telecommunications may run equally fast on both budget and high 
       end computers while sophisticated software such as drafting, 
       large databases and desktop publishing may run so slowly on a 
       low end computer that your wasted time far offsets the original 
       savings on the budget computer. When in doubt run several 
       software packages which provide features you want on the 
       computer in question. 

       Three technical factors are of interest when purchasing a 
       computer: the type of CPU (central processing unit) which is the 
       brains of a personal computer, the speed of the CPU and finally 
       the choice between 8 bit and 16 bit CPU types. 

       A brief refresher course: A bit is a binary digit used by 
       computers to store and process data. Typically 8 bits are needed 
       to construct a byte or computer character such as a number or 
       letter. Eight bit processors can process one byte or character 
       at a time. Sixteen bit processors can processor two bytes at a 
       time. Faster is better for most folks - although speed has its 
       price... 

       In the IBM world of clone PC's there are four camps of CPU desire 
       and capability.
       
       On the low end of price and performance are personal computers 
       of the so-called XT class using the oldest processors such as 
       the Intel 8088 (8 bit data bus outside the CPU and 16 bit data 
       bus inside the CPU) which was used on the original IBM PC. The 
       Intel 8086 CPU, alternatively, provides both 16 bit internal and 
       external construction. A similar CPU is the NEC V-20 chip. 
       Advantages, disadvantages and uses for these XT class machines? 

       XT's are affordable. A basic machine with a couple of floppy 
       drives, monitor and keyboard can be obtained for $300 to $400. 
       XT class machines are useful for small and home office work or 
       light hobbyist use such as word processing and accounting where 
       speed is not of great concern. Generally XT class machines, as 
       with all IBM clones, can be upgraded by the gradual (or 
       immediate) addition of hard drives, color monitors and even 
       faster processors. As a curious aside, this software package was 
       programmed and edited entirely on an XT class machine. In a 
       sense computing power does not derive from the machine, but HOW 
       you use it! 

       When is an XT not a good buy? If you intend to do CAD drafting, 
       work with large database mailing list, or high resolution 
       graphics, an XT is not a wise choice. If you ever to run 
       the OS/2 operating system or Microsoft Windows which are 
       advanced operating and display standards, XT machines are not a 
       good idea. Finally, if you intend to expand the machine to 
       color graphics such as an EGA or VGA standard or install large 
       amounts of memory an XT is probably not an ideal choice. 

       One step up the ladder in performance and price is the AT class 
       machine which runs an Intel (or alternate manufacturer) 80286 
       CPU chip. The machine is usually 2 to 4 times faster than an XT 
       class machine at perhaps $200 more in price. For most people an 
       AT class machine is a comfortable choice since it can not only 
       run OS/2 and Windows (albeit sluggishly) but also run earlier 
       software programs at greater speeds. AT class machines are 
       considered a "plain vanilla" standard in most office environments 
       and are usually sold with hard drives and additional memory as 
       standard equipment. 
       
       The 80286 processor also operates in two modes which the 8088 
       and 8086 cannot: REAL MODE which allows the 80286 CPU to work 
       like an 8088 CPU and PROTECTED MODE which allows access to more 
       RAM memory. In theory, the older 8088 CPU chip can address up to 
       1 Megabyte of memory. An 8088 CPU always operates in real mode. 
       
       In protected mode, however, the 80286 CPU can use up to 16 
       Megabytes of memory which can be an advantage in running both 
       larger, more sophisticated programs as well as earlier programs. 
       In addition, the 80286 CPU can, with the proper software, run 
       several programs simultaneously which is know as MULTITASKING. 
       
       The benefits of both protected mode and multitasking are 
       somewhat unrealized at present although certain of these 
       benefits can be obtained when running Windows software rather 
       than DOS. Because of this, most users who continue to run DOS 
       use an 80286 computer as a FAST device rather than seeking the 
       advantages of multitasking or protected mode operation. And the 
       80286 is VERY fast indeed with some manufacturers pushing the 
       CPU to speeds of 25 Mhz. 

       Generally, adding additional upgrade equipment such as EGA 
       monitors and laser printers is a good investment with an AT 
       machine but a poor idea with an XT machine. The AT machine uses 
       a 16 bit bus structure for rapid data flow while the older XT 
       class machine uses a more primitive 8 bit bus. 
       
       AT class machines run graphics and CAD programs relatively 
       quickly. Hard drives operate quickly on an AT class machine with 
       its larger 16 bit bus. It is a good choice for the small home 
       office doing word processing, accounting, light desktop 
       publishing, medium sized database mailing lists and so forth. 

       Still higher up the food chain are 80386 and 80386SX CPU 
       equipped machines which are still faster and provide a few more 
       whistles and bells. They can run software which XT and AT class 
       machines run, only FASTER. They are the machines of choice for 
       office LAN networks, intensive graphics, CAD programming, 
       Windows, OS/2, compilers and other number intensive programs. 
       
       Curiously, though, the 80386 data bus remains 16 bits wide in 
       most of these machines and there is no "OS/3" operating system, 
       so the performance you derive is speed without additional 
       whistles and bells. For most users, a "386" machine is mostly an 
       office computer which a home or hobby user might admire but 
       rarely need. 
       
       Intel corrected the problem of switching from real mode to 
       protected mode - a design flaw of the 80286 - and added a third 
       mode called virtual mode which allows the CPU to act as if 
       several "separate" 8088 computers are all running within one 
       machine. In addition the 80386 chip is a true 32 bit CPU which 
       processes four bytes or characters at a time. This 32 bit 
       structure effectively makes the 80386 CPU twice as fast as the 
       80286 CPU. Finally, the 80386 can directly address a whopping 
       four gigabytes of memory if available which is 256 times larger 
       than the amount of memory the 80286 can address! The downside is 
       that many of these advantages cannot be realized when running 
       DOS. Windows or OS/2 operating systems provide access to these 
       advanced features. Speed and additional memory capability is the 
       primary byproduct of operating an 80386 within a DOS environment. 
       
       The 80386SX is an affordable variant of the 80386 CPU. The key 
       difference is that it uses an EXTERNAL 16 bit data bus outside 
       the CPU which is similar to that used on conventional 80286 or 
       AT class computers. Internally it is quite similar to its big 
       brother, the 80386, and offers similar multitasking modes and 
       memory addressing. It can run all of the software the 80386 
       machine can, albeit slightly more slowly. These design 
       compromises allow manufacturers to produce an affordable 
       computer with a good balance of speed and cost. For many users 
       needing a powerful computer which can run all current and most 
       future software, the 80386SX is an enviable balance of 
       performance versus price and offers superior memory management, 
       optimum speed and ability to run current and future software. 
       
       The primary reason to select a 80386 over the 80386SX involves 
       the need for higher speed processing, ability to run 32-bit 
       software and advanced multitasking. 

       Before introducing the fourth Intel CPU, the 80486, two new 
       concepts must be mentioned: memory caching and mathcoprocessing. 

       As the speed of the CPU becomes faster, the RAM memory chips 
       where data is stored have difficulty moving data into and out of 
       the CPU. Memory caching involves special high speed RAM memory 
       chips - typically an amount from 64K to 128K - in addition to 
       the normal memory chips within the computer. These high speed 
       chips are expensive but keep data poised to quickly move in and 
       out of the CPU. Memory caching should not be confused with disk 
       caching which is another concept used when discussing hard 
       drives. 

       A second way to increase performance is to install a math 
       coprocessor chip into the empty socket which is available on 
       most computers. This device shares the processing of specific 
       numeric operations which can slow the CPU. Only certain types of 
       software support math coprocessors such as some CAD, spreadsheet 
       and graphics software. Not all software benefits from the use of 
       a math coprocessor.

       The 80486 CPU combines the features of the 80386 chip plus the 
       addition of a self-contained on-chip coprocessor and memory 
       cache. Although the memory cache is small, a mere 8K, it is 
       extremely effective since it is onboard with the CPU itself. The 
       80486 is useful for advanced scientific applications, CAD 
       drafting, graphics and high speed LAN (local area network) 
       shared computers in an office environment. 

       An 80486SX CPU is also available which is essentially a "poor 
       man's" 80486 with a smaller external data bus.             
       
       Back to CPU clock speed. Older XT (8088 CPU) machines operate at 
       a relatively slow speed of 4.7 to 10.0 Mhz or Megahertz. One 
       Megahertz equals one million cycles of electricity per second. 
       
       AT class machines (80286 CPU) operate in regions of 10 to 25 Mhz 
       while 80386 and 80486 machines operate at speeds in the 20 to 
       40Mhz region. Obviously faster is better especially when it 
       comes to colorful graphics displays, CAD drafting, large 
       spreadsheets and massive programming tasks. However simple word 
       processing, small business accounting and routine mailing list 
       management is more than adequate at 4.7 Mhz. The need for speed 
       is relative to the computing task at hand! 

       Let's backtrack for a moment and discuss RAM memory. Most 
       computers are sold with a specific amount of memory installed on 
       the main "motherboard". Increments of 640K to 1Meg of memory are 
       common. It is commonly advertised that additional memory may be 
       added as "expandable on the motherboard" to some upper limit 
       such as 4Meg or 8Meg. Thus the user can easily install plug in 
       chips of SIMM's (single inline memory modules) to sockets on the 
       motherboard. If possible, insist on SIMM memory modules which 
       are simpler for the average user to install rather than earlier 
       DRAM chips. Additional plug in memory boards can also be 
       installed into computers having an 80286 or higher CPU. Up to 16 
       Meg of RAM memory is possible on 80286 CPU equipped computers. 

       Why install more memory beyond the 640K which DOS can address?
       For fast memory caching, RAM disks, TSR installations, access 
       to programs which can use either or both expanded or extended 
       memory, to run the Windows operating system or OS/2. These 
       software requirements are not terribly exotic - but are simply 
       ways to improve performance and speed for more experienced 
       computer users.

       The hard disk is also a consideration in any computer purchase.
       CPU speed is determined by the clock speed of the computer while 
       hard drive speed is determined by two factors: access speed and 
       drive type. 
       
       Extremely fast hard drives operate at 18 milliseconds access 
       time or faster. Bargain computer hard drives operates in the 
       range of 28 to 40 milliseconds. Hard drives must also be mated 
       to a controller circuit which offers its own blend of 
       performance and economy. MFM and RLL drive/controller 
       combinations are earlier and less expensive hard drives while 
       ESDI, IDE and SCSI drives are faster and more expensive high 
       performance options. 

       Floppy drives come is various configurations. Budget computers 
       may contain only a 1.2MB floppy drive and hard drive. This 
       configuration can read two floppy densities: 1.2MB and 360K 
       floppies. A more flexible computer contains a hard drive, 1.2MB 
       floppy and 1.44MB floppy. This computer can read four floppy 
       formats: 1.2MM, 1.44MB, 720K and 360K. Ask if a budget computer 
       can later be upgraded to include other drive configurations. The 
       new smaller drives housing the rigid "mini floppies" such as 
       the 1.44MB and 720K formats hold 20% to 50% more data in a 
       sturdy plastic case with spring loaded dust door. 

       Monochrome displays are suitable for low end word processing but 
       today's software usually requires VGA color resolution as a 
       minimum. An affordable option is a VGA video card and a 
       MONOCHROME (black and white) VGA monitor which provides an 
       acceptable 64 shades of gray with most modern software 
       applications. 

       Several sources of computer equipment are available - each with 
       a different flavor.

       1) Manufacturer direct or direct sales, such as Dell, Northgate 
       and Zeos. This method usually assures relatively high quality 
       at fairly attractive price savings since you are dealing 
       directly with those who design and manufacture the computer. 
       Service is usually good, via telephone, FAX and BBS. The 
       downside is that you must deal through the mail and await 
       delivery. Price is very attractive, but not necessarily the 
       lowest available.

       2) Retail vendors such as Computerland or Tandy. Convenience is 
       the factor here since service, returns and delivery is handled 
       locally. You pay slightly higher for this additional 
       convenience. Generally this is the most expensive computer 
       purchase option.

       3) Mail Order Houses. Almost 15 percent of PC sales are 
       conducted by mail. Mail order houses do not completely design 
       and build their own systems like direct sellers but rely on 
       imported and pre-manufactured assemblies. Technical phone 
       support can be variable, but if you shop carefully, you can save 
       even more over local retail or manufacturer direct channels. 
       Mail order sources are available in newsstand magazines such as 
       Computer Shopper and PC Sources. 

       4) VAR's or Resellers. These specialized vendors usually provide 
       systems in volume frequently with "value added" features such as 
       special software setup, training or unique customization of 
       computer systems. 

       5) Home brewers. The ready availability of computer components 
       has spawned a cottage industry of small shops, some in home or 
       low rent office spaces which can custom design a system or allow 
       you to build your own computer using parts and facilities which 
       they provide. These small, minimum overhead operations can 
       provide extremely low prices but guarantees and service 
       contracts should be provided in writing and background of the 
       vendor should be investigated carefully. 
      
       What are some questions and requirements in purchasing a system? 
 
       What speeds are available on the CPU? 10 Mhz is standard on XT's 
       with 12 to 20 Mhz on AT's and 33 mhz on 80386 machines. How many 
       free slots are available on the internal motherboard for 
       expansion with future upgrade circuits? Five to eight expansion 
       slots is desirable except on small laptop computers. Is there 
       both a serial and parallel port? How many of each? Mouse port? 
       Is a clock chip included? How big is the hard drive? 40  to 80 
       Meg is considered somewhat standard in size today for most hard 
       drives although smaller 20 meg hard drives are useful for light 
       office use computers. 
    
       How many bays are available for extra drives? Two is minimum. 
       How many floppies? What size of floppies? Most computers today 
       minimally have either two floppies OR one floppy and one hard 
       drive. Who makes the hard drive? Seagate, Connor and Miniscribe 
       are considered reasonable, although not exclusive choices. Who 
       makes the floppy drive? Teac, Panasonic, Sony and Toshiba are 
       considered reputable in floppy manufacture. 
       
       Whose BIOS chip powers the machine? Phoenix, Award and AMI Bios 
       chips are all fine. How much memory is installed on the 
       motherboard. 640K is a bare minimum for all machines with 80286 
       and 80386 machines usually offered with at least two to four 
       Megs of RAM memory. Any memory cache chips? Any coprocessor 
       installed? Coprocessor socket available?

       What warranty covers the product and for how long? Does the 
       warranty cover both parts and labor? Does the vendor have 
       sufficient inventory to replace the entire computer if problems 
       arise? Is there a different warranty for the printer? Who 
       provides the service? What is the vendor's return policy AND 
       refund policy. Is there a restocking charge? Is there a discount 
       or change in price when dealing by check or charge card? How 
       long has the vendor been in business? Is the warranty 90 days, 
       one year or two years as some manufacturers are now offering? 
       Money back guarantee? How long? 30, 60, 90 days? What type of 
       refund on this guarantee: store credit, cash, exchange? Will you 
       put it in writing? Shipping and handling fee? Visa card 
       surcharge? 
       
       How good is technical support? Is there a toll-free support 
       line? 24 hours or limited hours? Is there a BBS (modem) 
       telephone line for support?

       Is maintenance performed on site (the customer's location) or 
       only at the vendor's location? Response time? Special 
       conditions? Is the on-site service essentially the same in 
       terms, such as parts and labor, as off-site? 

       Has the vendor sold computers to buyers in your business 
       specialty (medical, for example). References? How long has the 
       vendor been in business? 

       What is the estimated life of the PC? Of the hard drive? How far 
       can it be upgraded? In RAM memory? How many expansion slots?
       Can the CPU be upgraded? The display and graphics card? What is 
       the MTBF or mean time between failure of the components such as 
       the hard drive and printer according to printed manufacturer's 
       literature?  

       Does the computer come with ALL the parts you will need such as 
       monitor and graphics card? On many bare bones systems this is 
       extra. 
       
       Are the accessories from the same manufacturer? Is the item 
       available for immediate shipment or is a backorder the option of 
       the moment? When will it be shipped? Has there been a recent 
       price increase? 
              
       Any financing options available from the vendor which offer 
       advantage over bank or credit card purchase? Leasing options? 
       Bank financing carried by the vendor? What bank?
 
       Extras included with purchase? Documentation? DOS software? What 
       version? DOS 5.0 is the latest. Mouse? Software installed on the 
       hard drive? Is it legal software? Is is commercial software? 
       Shareware? 

       Any training classes provided? When? How often. Brush up 
       training free? 
  
       What utilities and extra software comes with the machine? Any 
       hard drive menu systems or utility software? How is the 
       documentation? Really good or just whatever the manufacturer had 
       translated? 

       What display monitor and card are included (if any)? VGA is 
       standard. EGA is minimum. CGA and Hercules are the bare minimum. 
       Are printer cables included with purchase of the printer? Any 
       spare printer ink cartridges included? 

       How is the keyboard. Springy and clicky with a tactile feel or 
       just mushy and so so? 
       
       Is the Basic programming language included or is this an extra 
       cost. Will the manufacturer throw in a software package suitable 
       for beginners such as Microsoft Works? Is the machine FCC class 
       B certified (the best) or class A (acceptable)? What is the 
       interleave on the hard drive (1:1 is fastest)? Is the keyboard 
       an 84 key type or 101 key type? 

       Is the computer case metal or plastic? How hard or easy is it to 
       pop the cover and install new circuit cards? Does the keyboard 
       plug into the front or back of the machine? The front plug 
       option is a sometimes more handy. Is the reset and on/off switch 
       on the front, back or side of the machine? Front is again more 
       handy. Panel lights on the machine to indicate CPU speed and 
       hard drive use? Keylock for security? How many copies of the 
       key? Does your key fit all the computers in the store too?
       
       Does a local computer club/user group buy from the vendor which 
       might provide personal references who can discuss why they 
       bought from that vendor? 

       For those who wish to read published reviews concerning specific 
       brands of computers, printers, monitors, modems and software: 
       the most complete resource is PC Magazine published by Ziff-
       Davis and available at most libraries and many newsstands. PC 
       Magazine editors usually select one or two items within a 
       product classification as their "Editors Choice." The complete 
       index to both PC Magazine as well as their product review index 
       is contained in their on-line modem service PC MagNet. 
       Instructions for reaching PC Magnet by modem are contained in 
       the Utilities section included within each issue of PC Magazine. 

       For product reviews of hardware and software you may wish to 
       download the PC MagNet files PCM.EXE, PCSRCH.EXE and PCM.INF 
       which are quite large. The files occupy more than 2 Megabytes of 
       disk space and require about 1.5 hours of somewhat expensive 
       modem connect time. Alternatively, you can reach the same 
       index of products on line within PC MagNet by typing GO REVIEWS 
       which allows you to search the product review database directly. 
       A larger database of 130 periodicals and their respective 
       product reviews can be viewed by typing GO COMPLIB from within 
       PC MagNet. Additional product review sources are suggested on 
       page 27 of the June 26, 1990 issue of PC Magazine (Vol 9 No 12.) 
       Page 397 of the same issue contains instructions on reaching and 
       using PC MagNet by modem. 

       If you do not have a modem or a friend with that capability, a 
       low-tech method for reviewing specific computer hardware and 
       software recommendations is to visit a local library which 
       contains back issues of PC Magazine. Glance at the magazine 
       cover for highlights of products reviewed in that issue. If you 
       work your way from the current issue backwards in time for 6 to 
       12 months, you should find detailed reviews on the equipment you 
       are investigating. Many computer clubs maintain a library of PC 
       Magazine issues and may be a source if your local library does 
       not subscribe to the magazine. 

       Yet another way to constructively shop for computer equipment is 
       to obtain free catalogs which are provided at no charge by 
       reputable computer vendors and manufacturers. See the listing of 
       free equipment catalogs contained in the recommended 
       reading/bibliography section elsewhere on this disk. 

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                 22 BASIC COMMANDMANTS OF COMPUTER CONSUMERISM 

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       1) Does the computer contain sufficient RAM memory and CPU speed 
       for the applications you intend to run and how easy is it to add 
       more memory? A 80286 computer may be fine for word processing, 
       for example, but a poor choice for extensive desktop publishing.

       2) Is the computer FCC approved with an FCC sticker? Class A or 
       B? Class B is better since it means certified for home use and 
       theoretically emits less objectionable static radiation.

       3) Have you identified the software you will (or might) be 
       using? Can the machine run that software? Is DOS included with 
       your machine? 

       4) As your needs change in time, will the machine expand or 
       change with those needs? 

       5) Is the outer case of the computer large enough to accommodate 
       additional expansion circuit boards? How many? 

       6) Is the power supply sufficiently large for future expansion? 
       What is the wattage of the power supply? Is the fan noise low or 
       NERVE WRACKING? 

       7) How many and what kind of floppy drives do you need? 

       8) Is the hard disk (if the machine contains one) certified for 
       use with the internal controller board which operates it? What 
       make on the controller card and hard drive?

       9) Is the hard disk set with the correct interleave factor? 

       10) Will your dealer offer superior service after the sale? Who 
       does the service? Where? Any free training classes? 

       11) Are all warranties in writing and how do they compare to 
       other dealers warranties in writing?

       12) What kind of monitor will you need and does the video 
       adapter card inside the computer allow for monitor upgrades and 
       will it display the software you intend to use? 

       13) Are you buying the computer or a sales pitch? 

       14) Are the internal components industry standard? Especially 
       the floppy and hard drives. What brands? 

       15) Is the dealer trying to sell you more/less than you need? 
 
       16) Have you set a realistic budget? 

       17) Have you gathered information for all sources such as 
       friends, magazine reviews, stores and advertisements? Are you 
       relying on one computer guru from work or, more wisely, several? 

       18) If the price is far below the average, something is missing.
       What is it? Quality of the hard drive, lack of higher resolution 
       video, toll free telephone support, software such as DOS?

       19) Determine the REAL price by extracting hidden additional 
       shipping charges, credit card surcharges, restocking charge if 
       item returned. 
       
       20) Pay by credit card if possible since if you end in dispute, 
       your credit card company can go to bat for you and issue a 
       credit until the dispute is resolved. In addition, many credit 
       cards automatically double the manufacturer's warranty. 

       21) Get details in writing. What is the salesperson's name? What 
       is the exact shipping date? 24 hours? same day? Get it in 
       writing via FAX. Retain the ORIGINAL AD which promoted the 
       computer. A paper trail established early is the best 
       protection. Retain warranty cards long enough to test all 
       equipment functions first! If you mail in manufacturer's 
       warranty cards too quickly, you may have to settle for 
       warranty coverage rather than replacement by the vendor.

       22) Retain all original cartons and packing material. Many 
       vendors ABSOLUTELY require it in case of return!

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            MUSCLE FOR COMPUTER CONSUMERS - THE LONG ARM OF THE LAW 
       
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       If you are dealing with a mail order supplier, Federal Trade 
       Commission rules apply! Essentially the vendor must ship the 
       order within 30 days of receiving it unless the advertisement 
       states otherwise. If a delay will be experienced in shipment, 
       the vendor must notify you in writing of a definite new shipment 
       date and also offer you the chance to cancel the order with full 
       refund. That notice must include a stamped or self-addressed 
       envelope or card which allows you to indicate your choice. If 
       you do not respond, the seller may rightfully assume you accept 
       the delay. However, the vendor must either ship or cancel the 
       original order within 30 days after the original shipping date 
       which was promised. 

       Any refunds for order cancellation must be made promptly. Even 
       if you accept an indefinite delay, you have the right to cancel 
       the original order at any time before the item is shipped. If 
       you chose to cancel any order, which has been paid by check or 
       money order, the vendor must mail a refund within seven business 
       days excluding weekends and holidays. 
       
       Likewise if the order was paid for by credit card, the vendor 
       must credit your account within one business cycle following 
       your cancellation request. Store credits and other methods or 
       offers of similar merchandise are NOT acceptable unless you 
       agree. If the original item is not available, a substitute item, 
       even if similar, is not acceptable unless the vendor has your 
       consent. Report violations to the Federal Trade Commission whose 
       phone number is usually listed in the blue pages (government 
       section) of your local telephone book. Tell the vendor you are 
       reporting violations to the FTC and mail the vendor a copy of 
       the letter you wrote to the FTC. This usually brings action 
       quickly.

       One primary conduit for recourse is the Direct Marketing 
       Association which maintains an action line for problem 
       resolution. First you should attempt to deal directly with the 
       seller, but if a problem is not promptly resolved you may wish 
       to contact the Mail Order Action Line, c/o DMA, 6 East 43rd 
       Street, NY, NY 10017. 
       
       The first step in any attempt to seek redress from a vendor is 
       to notify the supplier in writing that the item is defective 
       and include a copy of the invoice with information as to model, 
       price, date of order and account number if available. Retain a 
       copy of your letter seeking refund or replacement. Any phone 
       calls should be followed by a letter. 
       
       Generally do not return the item to the vendor until told how 
       and when to do so, since many have formal return policies and 
       require "return authorization numbers" which are usually issued 
       to you by phone or in writing. The return authorization number 
       accompanies the defective item on its return. Keep a copy of the 
       shipping receipt and packing slip. Any rights to recover postal 
       or shipping costs is determined by the policy of that vendor as 
       is usually stated in advertising and product literature. 

       You may also consider contacting the attorney general for the 
       state in which you live as well as the state in which the vendor 
       does business. This can be MOST effective especially if you send 
       a copy of that letter to the vendor. If the product was paid for 
       with a credit card, you may also retain the right to withhold 
       payment or cancel payment which is usually arranged directly 
       with your bank or credit card issuing agency. This is explained 
       under provisions of the Federal Fair Credit Billing Act. 

       Tutorial finished. Be sure to order your FOUR BONUS DISKS which 
       expand this software package with vital tools, updates and 
       additional tutorial material for laptop users! Send $20.00 to 
       Seattle Scientific Photography, Department LAP, PO Box 1506, 
       Mercer Island, WA 98040. Bonus disks shipped promptly! Some 
       portions of this software package use sections from the larger 
       PC-Learn tutorial system which you will also receive with your 
       order. Modifications, custom program versions, site and LAN 
       licenses of this package for business or corporate use are 
       possible, contact the author. This software is shareware - an 
       honor system which means TRY BEFORE YOU BUY. Press escape key to 
       return to menu.